Manhunt: Deadly Games: Will it do justice to Kathy Scruggs, whose biggest story made her into a villain?
Kathy Scruggs got the scoop of a lifetime when she found out the FBI were looking at Richard Jewell as a suspect
Police reporter Kathy Scruggs broke the biggest story of her career in 1996, but little did she know that it would turn her life upside down. It all goes back to that fateful day at the Centennial Olympic Park hosting the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. A security guard, Richard Jewell, discovered a backpack containing three pipe bombs on the park grounds and called the police - he was hailed a hero, only to be called a suspect later - and the scoop was reported by Scruggs.
Scruggs was working with the newspaper Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the time and had been told by an FBI source that they were looking at Jewell as a suspect, even though his actions had saved countless lives. Jewell sued the paper for defaming him, but the court ruled in the favor of the Atlanta Journal.
Jewell was ultimately cleared of all charges. His story and the events of from that fateful day are the inspiration behind Spectrum's new season of 'Manhunt'.
However, even though the paper won the suit, Scruggs lost credibility and it ate away at her. Friends say that even though it was not talked about, the guilt she carried about what happened was the biggest reason behind the fiesty young reporter's downfall. She was put on leave and every story she wrote came with an inkling of doubt.
Many have put their own rendition of the story of Richard Jewell onscreen, the most recent being Clint Eastwood with Olivia Wilde playing Scruggs. However, the film failed to portray Scruggs' character truthfully, many said. In fact, the editor in chief of AJC Kevin Riley even wrote a scathing column slamming the film after it implied that Scruggs had exchanged sex for information - a classic, burnt out and sexist journalist trope used in Hollywood films.
Scruggs had actually reported information that was factually correct, and the cops had said Jewell was the suspect. Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Jennifer Brett, who is also the author of 'The Ballad of Kathy Scruggs' said of the story, "Someone in Scruggs’ Rolodex led to the biggest story of her career, but those close to her say it was also her undoing."
Scruggs died in 2001 from a prescription drug overdose. She was 42 and was on medication for her chronic back pain. "In her heyday, Scruggs was a hard-drinking, tough-talking police reporter who wasn’t afraid of anything," a former colleague at the paper, Doug Munroe, wrote, "She was blonde and wore mini-skirts and gaudy stockings. She smoked. She drank. She cursed. She flaunted her sexuality. She dated Lewis Grizzard. She dated an editor who allegedly beat her with a telephone. She dated cops, including one who was accused of stealing money from the pockets of the dead."
"I think the Jewell case killed Kathy Scruggs. Certainly, the stress that plagued her in the aftermath of the story contributed to the health problems that led to her unspeakably sad death," he wrote.
The suit against her was dropped in 2011 but unfortunately, Scruggs was not around to see her name being cleared. It ate away at her, her co-workers have said. Tony Kiss, who was her former co-worker had said of her guilt, "She was never at peace or at rest with this story. It crushed her like a june bug on the sidewalk.”
It will be interesting to see how this series take on the story of Scruggs and Jewell.
The series drops all 10 episodes on February 3 on Spectrum Originals. Watch the trailer here: